LeRoy Ellis at his home in the Portland, Ore., area. (Steve Dykes / For The Times )
LeRoy Ellis, 72, a first-round draft pick of the Lakers in 1962 who was the backup center to Wilt Chamberlin on the 1971-72 NBA championship team, died Saturday in Portland, Ore., after battling cancer.
Ellis, a 6-foot-10 forward/center, played 14 seasons in the NBA and averaged 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. A New York City native, he played college basketball at St. John’s University.
The Lakers chose him with the sixth pick of the 1962 draft and he played four seasons in Los Angeles before being traded to Baltimore. He spent four seasons with the Bullets, and became the first starting center for the expansion Portland Trail Blazers in 1970. The next year the Trail Blazers traded him to the Lakers. He was traded to Philadelphia in 1972 and played there four years.
He played in the NBA finals four times, all with the Lakers.
After his basketball career ended in 1976, he lived in Los Angeles and worked for a tire company, then moved to Portland and worked in property management until his illness forced him to stop working in 2009.
He had five children, including son LeRon Ellis, who was a first-round draft pick of the Clippers in 1991.